A couple who shot to stardom after a controversial BBC documentary have revealed how their lives have fallen apart in the wake of the TV show.
Karen Wakefield and Paul Dawson appeared BBC's People Like Us and ran the Wishy Washy laundrette – a cornerstone of the community.
It brimmed with larger-than-life characters that showcased the vibrancy and the jarring reality of living in the area.
Since the 2014 documentary, which gave insight into what life is like in some of Manchester's roughest neighbourhoods, life hasn't been so rosy for the couple and their two daughters Amber and Madison.
The family told the Manchester Evening News how lost the business in 2016 that shot them into the spotlight following a two year battle with their gas supplier over a disputed energy bill.
Karen: "We call it 2016: The year we lost everything.
"It was the worst time we have ever had.
"It was really bad, we lost the place in 2014 really – we had the business taken off us.
"Somebody from the gas company came and said we are coming for the debt – but I disputed the amount we owed."
The gas company made an application to disconnect the commercial gas supply through Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court, and Wishy Washy was cut off.
Running the launderette without gas was impossible – the washing machines could function but the dryers couldn't, meaning they were losing customers.
But the pair persisted anyway and tried to keep the business open while fighting with the company.
They hired solicitors and fought against closure for two years, but gave up in 2016 as they couldn't afford it anymore.
The family were forced to go on benefits but had to wait nearly 15 weeks for the first payment and they couldn't afford to eat.
"We were left with nothing. We owed £20,000 [after the cost of the lawyers] and we had to go on the dole but we didn't realise it was this bad," Karen said.
"We had to wait nearly 15 weeks for the first payment, I said to them, how are we going to eat?
"They said you will just have to get it off friends. We then had to sell everything.
"I had to sell my jewellery, our televisions, our DVDs. I felt sorry for Maddy because we sold everything of hers, even her phone."
The stress of this took a significant toll on the family's health.
Paul had high blood pressure because of the stress – and he also had to become a full time carer for Karen who's physical disabilities worsened, as did her mental health.
Karen said: "After the change, I got agoraphobic – I didn't move out of my house and I just couldn't face coming downstairs.
"It had such a divisive impact on our family, Amber left and fell out with Madison.
"I lost my mobility and my car."
Her partner Paul had to become her full time carer as her physical disabilities, including knee and back problems, got even worse.
Daughters Maddy and Amber fell out, and Amber was so put off by the attention the show got that she gave up her dream of being an actress altogether and shunned the publicity.
Karen even felt suicidal at some points – something which was worsened with the sudden death of her father that year.
When the TV show aired, the family received lots of abuse.
In an earlier interview, Paul said: “And we get so much abuse online calling us all sorts – not even by children, it’s usually adults saying disgusting things about us even though they don’t know us.”
Sadly for the family, this abuse still continued after the show ended, which Karen described as "horrific".
"We got a lot of haters – we had somebody say I wish somebody would kill their kid and put a brick in her face," she said.
"Amber never wants to do acting again.
"We were begged to go on Big Brother , but Amber said no mum, I'm not doing it – she used to want to be an actress but not any more."
Although losing her father was hard, it turned out he had paid for a caravan holiday in Blackburn before he passed away because he was worried about his daughter and wanted to get out of the house.
Karen's good fortune took a turn for the better on the holiday, where she won enough money to buy a car after a lucky win on a spinner.
Though their daughters may have given up the search for fame, Karen and Paul have said that they would be eager to go back on the TV show if the BBC ever commissioned another series.
"I would definitely consider doing another series if they came back – I can't believe the BBC made that much money from it. We beat the Brit awards in terms of views," Karen said.
Despite the abuse after the show aired and the struggles the couple and their family have faced, the pair have returned to TV screens, appearing on Channel 5's 'On Benefits: Life on the Dole'.
They are also appearing on a paranormal activity TV show this summer as Karen believes there is ghost in their house – and claims to have experienced it dragging her around the room and slamming doors in Paul's face.
For Karen and Paul, life is finally beginning to get back to the way it was before the laundrette closed down.
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